the pieces are here... 7:05am, 4 October 2009
Seriously, how incompetent is CTA management if it can't make its employees understand a fairly simple and straightforward policy? Or maybe we should ask, how dumb are some CTA employees if after all the attention this issue has gotten, that they still don't know the official CTA photography policy from their own ass. While usually I like to side with the little guy, the fact a CTA motorman derailed his train after running straight through a restricting signal and overriding the PTC, I'm not necessarily filled with confidence the the average CTA worker is the brightest of our civil servants.

Wherever the fault is, if it's poor management and training, or functionally illiterate idiots who have no business in a professional that requires keen communication and observation skills, I'm sick of the CTA not following its own damn photography policy.

Seriously, I thought after shooting on the el a few times this summer with no problems, the message had finally gotten clear. I guess not, since today taking pictures at Madison and Wabash, I not only had a CTA employee tell me I was categorically not allowed take pictures, which is (assuming he knows the policy) a lie, but when I went on shooting he felt the need to get on the damn PA system to tell me to stop.

At this point, I went over and asked his name and told him I wanted to make a complaint to his supervisor. He refused to give me his name, or call his supervisor over, but when I asked again, he said he would go get the police and walked off. Apparently, asking to see a CTA supervisor because of a misbehaving employee is a police matter now.

I don't think he actually did get the police, since after he left, I went up to the platform and shoot for several minutes while awaiting my train. And after it came, I got off at Randolph and Wabash and shot there for a good half an hour, including in view of the CTA booth agent there, who barely gave me a second look, showing that at least some CTA people no what is and isn't in their authority. Even still, it seems the bad CTA employees are at least as common as the good ones.

The CTA needs to seriously address this issue and start disciplining its employees who step out of line. Letting things continue like this is a sure-fire recipe for an expensive lawsuit on the day a rouge employee finally goes to far and actually does have a photographer unlawfully removed from CTA property. For an agency that needs billions of dollars to keep running, an expensive lawsuit that starts case law against them is the last thing they need.

For those of us who ride and/or photograph the el, maybe it's time we took coordinated action in demanding accountability from our tax dollars at work.
Mr. Saro [deleted] 6 years ago
Ha you're funny
Mickey B. Photography Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Mickey B. Photography (member) 6 years ago
Interesting story, Sam.

Up until recently, I have never spent a whole lot of time photographing the CTA. But a few weeks ago, I got an itch to take some El and subway shots, so I spent 2 seperate days within a week's time down in the city and the loop photographing the CTA.

Having read about fellow photographers getting hassled by CTA employees, and having it happen once to myself about 2 years ago, I printed a copy of the CTA photo policy and put it in my pocket, just in case they tried to give me any trouble.

The only trouble I had was on the first day, and it wasn't really even trouble. I had just gotten downtown, and was shooting on the platform at Adams & Wabash. I was just getting started when a Securitas employee came up to me, accompanied by a CTA employee. The CTA employee very politely asked me "Excuse me, are you with a photography service?" I said, "Um, a service? No. I am just a photographer and I enjoy photographing trains." The CTA employee then said ok and told me to have a nice day and to be careful.

Rewind about 2 years... I was at the end of the Brown Line @ Kimball with my Mom. We were on our way to visit my Aunt and I just stopped at the end of the platform to grab a quick shot with my P&S. A huge CTA lady came running (and she was pretty large, so it was more like waddling) down the platform yelling "NO PHOTOS! NO PHOTOS!" This was before I was really into photography, and long before I knew CTA had a photo policy, so I just put my camera in my pocket and left.

So... those are the only two times I have ever had any trouble. And to be perfectly honest, I had expected to run into some issues when I was down there a few weeks back - especially when I was in the subway tunnels. I spent a good amount of time down in the Blue line subway, photographing the tunnels, the trains, and the signage, and nobody said anything to me. Not sure why that is.. maybe it was because I did most of it on a Sunday afternoon and there were hardly any people around. And whenever I did see a CTA or a Securitas employee, if they saw me, I made sure to say hello and most of them were pretty friendly.

I agree with you 100%, Sam. I think that all CTA employees, and employees contracted by the CTA, such as Securitas need to be briefed on the CTA photography policy. I mean, the policy is right on their website, so CTA management knows that it is an important issue. My only suggestion is to maybe keep a copy of the policy with you. I know it sucks, and it takes a few extra minutes to do it, but maybe it will save you some headaches in the future. It would be pretty badass if a CTA employee came up to you and started telling you that you could not take pictures, and then bam, you pull out the CTA photo policy from your pocket. It may help the situation, then again it may not. It's just my suggestion, FWIW....

Furthermore, it's actually a pretty good policy. Photography is allowed on platforms as long as you are not using tripods, lighting or cables. I don't see what's so hard to understand about that...
Nate Beal PRO 6 years ago
I think that lady still works at Kimball, last winter when shooting, she got all huffy about taking pics on her platform
Mr. Saro [deleted] 6 years ago
They just sent out a newpolicy. Everyone stop crying and print it out and carry it with you and if anyone says anything, tell em to fuck off. No sense in typing so much bitch drama.
Yeah, I'm sure showing them the print out will solve everything, considering we're talking about people who already think they can make their own rules. I mean, carry it and pull it out for the fun of it (and try video taping and posting the tape here for extra lols), but don't expect it to actually acomplish anything.
Mr. Saro [deleted] 6 years ago
Well I had all my photog friends do it, and yes they get herassed but this way when they (cta) get off the train or booth they feel stupid getting handed the exact same rules they signed for saying they understood them. If you KNOW what you're doing isn't wrong then you don't even have to awknowledge them.
Totally ignoring them is a pretty good strategy. Although once they get on the PA system to start bitching at you, the chances that they'll make talking to them unavoidable go up a good deal.
Mickey B. Photography 6 years ago
Well, it was only a suggestion.
I mean, it's not a bad suggestion. I plan to carry a copy of the policy next time I go out on the el, but I don't expect it to acomplish anything more than giving me a moral victory.

A guy who won't call over his supervisor, won't give his name, and will threaten to get the police when you continue to insist to speak to his supervisor probably isn't going to look at a piece of paper you try to give him, or in the up is down world of the CTA, will just look at it and say it backs up his version of the rules and you're back to square one.
Stephen Gardiner PRO 6 years ago
It happened to me at State/Lake Station on the el when i was down at the end of September. Woman goes you can't take pictures to the five of us from Toronto in town as Tourists. I had checked the rules before, and told her that, but couldn't be bothered arguing with an ignorant fool while on vacation. Took lots of pictures on Sunday morning and no one bothered me at all.
Way to go Chicago. Harassing tourists sure helps the city's image out.
Mark Vogel 6 years ago
ah, but you expect that in Chicago, hell I find if I don't get bitched at up there then I feel like something might seriously be wrong (by the way I have an Indiana license plate and it's all proven fact that that guarantees crap if you are in Chicago).
muledriver Posted 6 years ago. Edited by muledriver (member) 6 years ago
I was hassled last week...i stated the policy to the employee and she told me "no photos" or the police will be I shot one in front of her and said go ahead, I am not breaking your policy. She backed off a bit and told me she was only doing her job, I said I understood but she needed to review the policy before attempting to "do your job" and then got on a train that had just pulled in. This was on the Brown Line at hassles anywhere else that day.
Expect it to get worse after what just happened in Moscow.
hannibal1107 PRO 6 years ago
I ride the CTA and photograph on it and from it on a regular basis. I guess I don't look like a terrorist. I have never been hassled about it. Once when I was at the airport I was told not to photograph jet aircraft taking off or landing. Do they really think this is going to stop anyone from doing so if they were so determined?
IljohnIl 6 years ago
I've only gotten hassled once. Still annoying though since I was well within the policy. In my mind, the terrorists won...we live in a constant state of fear and anxiety in which we cannot go about harmless daily actions. I carry the policy in my bag now so I can shove it in their face.
John J Curtis 6 years ago
I feel like CTA employees are trained a different way than what the policy states, having been told by several CTAers that I was not allowed to shoot over the past year. One operator got on the PA to admonish me after pulling into a stop.
critiqual 5 years ago
I was at the Addision stop. The CTA woman "enforcer" first talked with a train driver at length while I was taking photos on the platform of a train coming south.

She stopped me by yelling "Sir!" and then informed me I need to call a special phone number in order to take photos. She said I needed to understand that this platform has millions of tourists. I interrupted her and pointed that out exactly: millions of tourists, with thousands of cellphones with cameras and hundreds of others with dslrs like mine. Did they all have to call this "special" number? She nodded. She bullshitted me and I was more angry at myself for letting her hoodwink me but I was shooting at a disadvantage. I had no knowledge of their policy and I erred on the safe side. Until now.

CTA employees should instead bust the people who smoke, eat or loudly play their radio while on the train. I never see that happen.

I went back to the same platform and several others a few weeks later and took dozens of pictures. I was hoping I'd run into her again but I didn't.
Brule Laker PRO 5 years ago
I was taking photos of a "Sox Express" bus parked on 35th Street on Opening Day when the driver came out and asked me what I thought had something to do with PACE (i don't hear so well in my old age). I said no and walked away. Later I realized it must have been about my picture taking but by then I was finished and gone.
nssf04 5 years ago
There was a group of CTA employees on the Clark/Lake Blue Line platform one night when I was taking some photos while I was waiting for my train home. One of them -- he might have been a trainee -- walked over to me and, while smiling, asked me if I had a permit to take photos. I said, somewhat annoyed but calmly, that I didn't need a permit because I wasn't there doing any commercial shooting and wasn't using a tripod or light stands. He continued smiling and said, "OK."
Metra Fan 7 [deleted] 5 years ago
I've been hassled twice so far. The first time the employee wasn't too bad (he was a motorman) and after I explained the policy he just said alright you can continue. The second time, again a motorman, opened the cab door while we were stopped, while I was taking video out the front two windows, and told me that I couldn't take pictures or video unless I had a permit. Not wanting to hold the train up I just stopped, and photographed again once I got off and left. Not all the employees are like this though. On a one occaision I've gotten off the train, and started photographing when the motorman asked me if I was going to get back on so he wouldn't leave me in the station. All depends on who sees you, the trainees, incompotent, and just plain nasty, or the experienced and the freindly.
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